Papers of Sir Tom Hopkinson (1905-1990), journalist

Scope and Content

The archive documents Hopkinson's early life as a journalist, and career as editor of both Picture Post, and South Africa's Drum Magazine.

Drum became an innovative and socially-engaged publication under Hopkinson's editorship. Aimed at audiences in urban, black townships, the magazine documented pivotal events in South African history, including the tragedy at Sharpeville.

Hopkinson's later academic career is documented, as well as research and drafts for his many publications - biographies, autobiographies, novels, plays, short stories, and edited works.

The archive contains an extensive collection of photographs from both his professional and personal life.

Hopkinson's personal papers have been collected, including detailed diaries from his years in Africa, as well as the papers of his wife, Dorothy Hopkinson.

The archive contains upsetting images and content, and language which is now considered offensive. Such terminology has been enclosed in quotation marks to designate its presence in the original material.

Administrative / Biographical History

Sir Henry Thomas Hopkinson CBE (19 April 1905 - 20 June 1990) was a British journalist, picture magazine editor, author, and teacher.

Born in Manchester, Hopkinson attended prep school on the Lancashire coast and then St Edward's School, Oxford. From there he went to Pembroke College, reading Classical Moderations (Class II, 1925) and Greats (Class III, 1927). His philosophy tutor for Greats was R. G. Collingwood.

Hopkinson first worked in advertising and publicity, then became a magazine assistant editor in 1934. He was soon working for Stefan Lorant on Weekly Illustrated magazine, and wrote short stories and novels during his free time. He also assisted Lorant on Lilliput magazine, and then on Picture Post magazine from 1938 to 1940. When Lorant left permanently for America in July 1940, Hopkinson became editor of Picture Post, the leading illustrated magazine of its time and a pioneering example of photojournalism, where he remained in post until 1950.

In October 1950, after photojournalist Bert Hardy and writer James Cameron returned to London from their Korean War coverage, Hopkinson tried to go to press with their coverage of United Nations atrocities in Pusan. Publisher Sir Edward Hulton stopped the presses, fearing that coverage would 'give aid and comfort to the enemy'. Hopkinson persisted and was fired by Hulton.

Hopkinson became editor of South Africa's Drum magazine in 1958. He encouraged the South African photojournalist Peter Magubane, who was covering the anti-apartheid struggle. He travelled regularly to Ghana and Nigeria during this time, organising the local editions of Drum. During his time in Africa, he was involved in setting up Journalism Schools for the International Press Institute (IPI).

When Hopkinson left Drum, he went on to teach journalism in British universities. He was founding director of the Centre for Journalism Studies at University College Cardiff, now Cardiff University, from 1970-75. Later, he returned to Oxford. He continued his habit of writing short stories, novels, as well as a biography of Meher Baba and several autobiographies. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1978.

Access Information

Access is available by prior appointment.


Shelves 393-398, F10.

Conditions Governing Use

This archive contains personal data regarding living individuals. This data is subject to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and Data Protection Act 2018. Access to original documents is permitted upon completion of a Data Protection Declaration. Photography of original documents is not permitted.

Custodial History

File 437/1/2/2 on the history of Picture Post, and 10 volumes of diaries documenting the years before Hopkinson's move to Africa, dated 1932-58, are on long term loan to the Hopkinson Estate.